Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Clean Burn

Clean Burn: Introducing Detective Janelle WatkinsClean Burn: Introducing Detective Janelle Watkins by Karen Sandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

P.I. Janelle Watkins left finding missing children behind after a failure that led to her leaving the San Francisco PD. Or so she thought. Now she's back in the town where she grew up, on the trail of two missing boys. Can she overcome her personal demons long enough to find the boys and bring their abductor(s) to justice?

I got this courtesy of Angry Robot/Exhibit A and Netgalley.

Karen Sandler has been around for a while but this is her first detective novel. I hope she sticks to writing detective novels from now on.

Janelle Watkins won me over right away, from her injured leg, to her dysfunctional childhood and subsequent psychological issues, to her sassy black secretary. About halfway through the first chapter, I started measuring Janelle Watkins and Clean Burn against Carol Starkey and Demolition Angel. Janelle held her own.

The comparison to Demolition Angel proved to be an apt one. Watkins and Starkey are both damaged heroines, Watkins from her dysfunctional childhood and the accident that saw her get chained to a desk with a bum leg and Starkey from the bomb blast that killed her partner/lover and left her off the bomb squad. They both also have bad coping mechanisms: Starkey loves the sauce and Watkins burns herself with match heads. They're both strong ladies when the chips are down.

Watkins' cases take her to her old home town of Greenville and back into her past, confronting both memories of her childhood and the sheriff, her old partner on the SFPD with whom she had an affair. Ken, the sheriff, is working on arson cases. The two inevitably team up and find themselves up against a serial kidnapper/nutcase called Mama.

Things develop along the usual thriller-y lines, chasing down leads and moving closer to the inevitable hookup, a standard trope for the genre. It all came together at the end and the last 30% was nearly impossible to put down.

It was right on the line between three and four so I gave it a four, the same rating I gave Demolition Angel. When's the next Janelle Watkins book coming out?

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